The first of February marks the beginning of Black History Month. The originator of Black History Month can be traced back to Carter G. Woodson. He started “Negro Week,” which was later transformed into the Black History Month we know today. This celebration was first nationally recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. The United States isn’t the only one to celebrate Black History Month. Black History Month is recognized globally; countries like Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom celebrate Black history during February.
You might have already asked yourself how could you, a non-identifying black person, celebrate and support the black community, not just these next 28 days but all year round? In a state like New Mexico, where only about 2.6% of the population are black residents, finding ways to show support to your local black community can be challenging. Most of the New Mexican population identify as Hispanic or Latinx, so as people of color, we must form relationships and establish ally ships with other people of color and stand strong together. In solidarity with the black community in New Mexico, we have gathered some ways you can celebrate black history and culture, show support, and have a list of local events in honor of Black History Month.
Do your research: If you don’t know how to start becoming an ally, the first thing you should do is your research. This research is different for everyone, but it’s essential to educate yourself about the local and national black history to better understand different situations and struggles. Read books, watch documentaries, read articles, look up topics and black activists online.
Become a role model/mentor: Show others in your community how to be a strong ally. Sign up to be a mentor to black youth in your community or mentor someone at work, community programs, etc.
Consume black works: While doing your research, make sure you consume people’s works in the black community. Listen to what they have to say.
Support black business & art: Look around our local community and search for black-owned businesses. Show these businesses your support by purchasing their goods and services, follow and like their social media accounts, and tell others about their business. Do the same for local black artists. Also, support black business online as well. Esty is a great place to start supporting small businesses. Here in New Mexico, you can go to https://nmblackhistorymonth.com/black-owned-businesses/ to find local black-owned businesses.
Read more books by black authors: Diversifying your reading list is a great way to learn about other points of view, and it can make you more empathic to others. Black authors don’t just write books about their life experiences. They also write about romance, comedy, fantasy, and so much more. Challenge yourself by reading at least one book by a black author in each of your favorite genres to read.
Watch more black films: Just like diversifying your reading list, diversify your movie list too. Challenge yourself to watch at least one film directed, produced, and starring a black cast in different film genres.
Donate to a black organization: There are great organizations out there that do fantastic work for the black community. Research some and donate to the ones you connect with the most.
Sign up to receive news from a black organization: Signing up to receive information from national and local black organizations can help you stay in touch with current events and expand your knowledge of the black community, culture, and history.
Host or attend black culture events in your area: Attend a black culture event! Here is a list of events being hosted in Las Cruces for Black History Month; https://blackprograms.nmsu.edu/events/upcoming_events.html
Discover and enjoy black culture: The best way to learn and celebrate the black community is to understand and appreciate the culture. Become acquainted with your local black community members and learn from them. Remember, the goal here is to appreciate black culture, not appropriate it!
Create a safe space for dialogue & discussion: Create a space, whether it is online or in-person, where everyone can participate in constructive dialogue and discussion about issues that the black community faces. Share the knowledge you have learned with your friends and neighbors, doing so safely and following your states Covid-19 guidelines.
Understand and use your privilege: Many of us have benefits that we can be intentionally or unintentionally aware of; even other people of color carry privileges that others don’t have. We should always be taking the time to understand what those privileges are and reflect on them. Try and find small and large ways you could use your privilege to fight injustice. Be intentional with your actions. Also, find ways to use your privilege to give others a seat at the table.
Call out others & be accountable: Call out racism and other forms of hate. We as a society should not accept any forms of hatred toward others. We must keep members of our community accountable for their choice of words and actions, whether they are public officials, friends, family members, colleagues, public figures, etc. We also have to check ourselves and keep ourselves accountable as well.
Be an active community member: Attend community events and city council meetings. Make presentations for these meetings and events to highlight local issues that are affecting local black communities. Be an active registered voter and do some research on issues being voted on that could affect your black community.
These are a few ways you could celebrate and support our local black community during and after Black History Month. Take small steps and remember that you will make some mistakes along the way, but the important part is that you continue to grow and learn. Becoming an ally takes a lot of work but very rewarding in the end. Let us continue doing the work and building communities that are safe and just for all.